Brooklyn’s Great Gentrification Divide

Joseph Berger examines how gentrification in certain Brooklyn neighborhoods has revealed a conflict of values among residents.
July 11, 2012, 8am PDT | Emily Williams
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Gentrification has been a hot button issue for some time, and continues to be a topic of ongoing debate for residents of Brooklyn, now a global icon of cool. Many who live in the "other Brooklyn", in such neighborhoods as Homecrest, Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach and Gerritsen Beach want nothing to do with gentrified Brooklyn, eschewing the more up-and-coming areas for the comfort and convenience of a "residential, suburban" lifestyle. "We're not looking for innovative ways to do things," says Community Board 15 chairwoman Theresa Scavo. "When people hear about the new Brooklyn, they say let them have it."

These sentiments, Berger writes, are not echoed by all in the borough, however. Residents and elected officials recognize the economic and social benefits that gentrification could bring to their communities. "'I'm glad Brooklyn is making a name for itself and it's coming up, but if it's coming up, it should be spread out,' said Joycelyn Maynard, who runs the Stone Avenue Library, a nearly 100-year-old branch in Brownsville, an area struggling with unemployment, foreclosed homes, troubled schools and gang shootings. ‘I think they pay more attention to parts of Brooklyn that are gentrified.'"

While some neighborhoods are enjoying the introduction of trendy restaurants and shops, others like Sunset Park and Brownsville continue to suffer from neglect by public officials and private developers. Says resident Maynard, the focus on gentrification detracts from more fundamental concerns. Of her Brownsville neighborhood, she asks, "Here, how can you have a cafe where people eat in the sun if they're concerned about gangs shooting each other?"

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to clarify which neighborhoods were thought to value a "suburban" lifestyle.

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Published on Sunday, July 8, 2012 in The New York Times
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